I have a guest today on this here blog. It’s my beautiful and brilliant friend Elsie Park. She is a wonderful mother, a super homemaker, and an all around neat person. I wish she’d move to town. That’d be so fun.
Elsie has her debut novel, er, debuting right now. It’s called Shadows of Valor, and it’s set in the Middle Ages. I’m reading it on my Kindle right now and absolutely loving it. There’s adventure, intrigue, love, and lots of “setting.” So fun to immerse in the setting, that Elsie has researched so well. Here’s the cool cover.
I know you readers of my blog check in here to be educated and edified. (Or else you stop by just so you can see “what not to wear,” or “how not to clean.” I’m okay with that too.) If so, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been asking yourself, when will Jennifer’s blog inform me about Medieval life?
The answer? TODAY, my friends. Today. Take it away, Elsie!
LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES
This is a difficult topic to write about in much detail because covering it in a short article is near impossible. There are huge, thick books written on this very subject and not every book contains every piece of information because there’s so much. Being that the lives of the nobility and royalty encompass a whole other world, I’ve narrowed this article down to the bare bones life of the average middle-class citizen in medieval
The “middle ages” refer to the time period from about 500 A.D. and the late 1400s A.D. Much of the information we have today about the medieval period came from records kept by monks.
Villages sprang up around a lord’s manor/castle for protection. Peasants living in these villages farmed the land owned by the lord and gave most of the food they grew to the lord as their “rent pay” for the using the land. Peasants worked hard to grow enough food to feed both their families and also satisfy the lord.
Village streets were narrow as houses were built close together with the main street running through town typically leading straight from the lord’s manor. Most peasant homes were made of wood and sod with a dirt floor covered with hay and thrushes that could be changed for fresh ones. The roofs were made of woven grass called “thatch.” Peasant homes could be one or two stories high (sometimes more). The bottom level sometimes doubled as a shop as well as a common area for the family. From this level a peasant could work his trade and sell his wares. The hearth (often an open fire pit housing a large cooking kettle) and communal dining table might also be on this level. Bedrooms could be found on the second level, complete with straw-filled sacks on which to sleep.
Peasants arose early in the morning and utilized every ounce of sunlight possible to work the fields or trade in which they were assigned or taught. Some important trades that the community depended on were the baker, butcher, blacksmith, potter, cobbler (shoe maker), carpenter, apothecary (medical person and/or chemist), and religious leaders. Things grown in the fields included wheat, oats, hay, edible roots and other vegetables. Animals were kept and tended to for the lord. The lord owned all the land and animals living on it. The peasants couldn’t hunt of fish on the land unless the lord gave permission. Some examples of animals kept were sheep for their wool, cows and goats for their milk, chickens for their eggs, meat and feathers, pigs for their meat and hides, horses for labor and other birds for sport and meat.
Most peasant children didn’t go to school, but worked along side their parents as they worked the land or their trades. Only the most privileged noble children learned to read and write, and even some of them didn’t. Most often it was only those entering the religious order who learned to read and write, and mostly in Latin. Some peasant adults and children were chosen to work in the lord’s manor as servants tending to the horses, household duties or kitchen duties.
Peasants weaved and made most of their own clothing from wool. Basic clothing consisted of tunics (shirts), breeches (loose pants), stockings and leather shoes for men. Women wore kirtles (long dresses) often under a long surcoat (an over dress) with a wimple (a veil or cloth) covering the head and neck and leather shoes.
Life wasn’t easy by our modern standards today, but it was by no means miserable and as dark as some people portray the middle ages to have been (unless you’re talking the Black Plague era, but that’s opening a can of worms that I won’t touch). Though the average peasant worked hard from sun up until sun down in whatever capacity he was given by the lord or his trade, life had its finer points as well. There was entertainment, music, dancing, plays, sports, courting (dating), marriages, births, celebrations of holidays, plenty to take the mind off of the mundane daily labors. On Sundays, after attending church, the peasants often enjoyed the day of rest with good company, meals, singing and dancing in the village. The lord would sometimes invite the peasants to the manor for feasting and fun on holidays such as Christmas or during tournament activities.
This article is certainly not a complete record of everything that transpired in a medieval village, nor was every village the same, but I hope this gives a little glimpse of the “average” life of a middle-class peasant living in the middle ages.
Thanks so much for having me here, Jennifer. It’s been WONDERFUL!
Great, right? She is. Totally. So. Here’s how to follow Elsie elsewhere on the web. She loves to hear from fans and fellow writers!
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorelsiepark
Shadows of Valor is available next weekend, September 21, 2013 through Jolly Fish Press. Don’t you think you’ll love to read it too? I think you will!